Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Last Call For Mr. Unpopularity Over Here

Meanwhile the Trump regime train wreck is starting to take its toll on the Donald.

A record 60 percent of Americans disapprove of the job President Trump is doing, according to Gallup's daily tracking poll.

That is slightly higher than Trump's previous disapproval threshold, which was 59 percent in late March, according to the poll.

Meanwhile, 36 percent of those surveyed in the latest tracking poll approve of the job Trump is doing, near the record low of 35 percent from March 28. Neither former President Barack Obama nor President Bill Clinton ever reached 60 percent in the survey, while George W. Bush reached the 60 percent disapproval mark nearly five years into his presidency.

The daily poll of approximately 1,500 U.S. adults is conducted via telephone and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

To be fair, it took Trump all of five months to end up at "Dubya who got wiped out in the 2006 midterms" level.  Five months to stack up as much incompetence as Bush did in five years.

And it's only just begun.  We're seriously at the level of finding out if Trump has a floor to his disapproval numbers...or a ceiling to his malfeasance.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

A double header tonight on Russia, first up, given the Trump regime's multiple failed attempts to remove sanctions against Russia, it looks like the Senate is taking that option out of Trump's hands.

Senators have struck a deal to put a comprehensive Russia sanctions bill on the floor this week, according to those negotiating the legislation. 
The measure, which will be attached to a bill to stiffen Iran sanctions that is under consideration, incorporates proposals to codify existing Russia sanctions, introduce punitive measures against Moscow in light of Russia’s aggressive activities in Ukraine, introduce measures addressing Syria and the realm of cyberhacking, and give Congress the power to review efforts by the administration to scale back sanctions against Russia before they can go through. 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed the amendment late Monday, setting up a vote for later this week, after extensive talks with Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking Democrat, Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.), Banking Committee ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and vocal Russia critics John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) were also involved in various stages of the discussion. 
“This is a very comprehensive piece of legislation,” Corker said Monday night after the measures were introduced. “It really touches all the components.” 
Various senators involved in the discussions had filed three different bills to increase sanctions against Russia over its involvement in the wars in Ukraine and Syria, as well as over allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Some proposed bills also included measures to give Congress the power to block the president from easing up on sanctions against Russia and to better counter Russian propaganda in the United States and Europe.

Corker said that he had drafted a fourth bill about three months ago addressing several of the points, but that his office had never released it. 
The measure filed Monday night directs sanctions toward Russia’s intelligence and defense apparatus, as well as parts of its energy, mining, railways and shipping economy. It also includes provisions to punish those engaged in corruption and human rights abuses.

Tacking this on to the Iran sanctions bill is clever, meaning it will get GOP support (as well as force Trump to swallow it.)  Senator Brown yesterday all but said that the measure has enough votes to override any possible Trump veto attempt, and the House won't be a problem here.   Senator Corker too believes this will pass with well more than 67 votes.

Trump's boss in Moscow won't be happy.  That's because the other big Russia story has to do with their interference in our elections, it wasn't just a few states, but 39.

Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported
In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said. 
The scope and sophistication so concerned Obama administration officials that they took an unprecedented step -- complaining directly to Moscow over a modern-day “red phone.” In October, two of the people said, the White House contacted the Kremlin on the back channel to offer detailed documents of what it said was Russia’s role in election meddling and to warn that the attacks risked setting off a broader conflict. 
The new details, buttressed by a classified National Security Agency document recently disclosed by the Intercept, show the scope of alleged hacking that federal investigators are scrutinizing as they look into whether Trump campaign officials may have colluded in the efforts. But they also paint a worrisome picture for future elections: The newest portrayal of potentially deep vulnerabilities in the U.S.’s patchwork of voting technologies comes less than a week after former FBI Director James Comey warned Congress that Moscow isn’t done meddling. 
“They’re coming after America,” Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the election. “They will be back.” 
A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington declined to comment on the agency’s probe.

Again, the easiest way to ensure Republican dominance was to have someone take out as many Democratic voters as possible out of the voter databases, since the GOP was in the process of doing that anyway.  The result:  Trump won the electoral college by fewer than 100,000 votes in the right four states, all states that showed dramatic reductions in black voter turnout.

We'll see what the White House does here.

Mulling Over Mueller

The Trump Regime is at least floating the trial balloon if Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is currently investigating Russia/Trump connections, should be fired.

Donald Trump is considering dismissing the special counsel assigned to the Russia investigation, a confidant said on Monday.

Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy told PBS Newshour that Trump is “considering perhaps terminating” Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who was appointed to run the investigation into Russian influence on the campaign by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on May 17.

Asked later if Trump is really considering firing Mueller, Ruddy said: “Yes.”

The "enlightened" pundits on the right are trying to do everything they can to sell this, the reason being that Mueller cannot be objective because of 1) his personal and professional friendship with James Comey from their FBI years and 2) as former FBI Director, his investigation would only serve as a cover-up for failures by the intelligence community to stop Russian interference.

Yeah, suddenly the Trump regime and its lackeys are worried about possible conflicts of interest, guys.

Meanwhile, Jack Goldstein at Lawfare ponders if Trump could fire Mueller himself, or if he has to order the person who appointed him, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, to do it.  The legal iddues say Trump most likely has the authority, but from a non-legal standpoint, it's a nightmare scenario.

It is a matter of Rosenstein’s judgment--about whether he is convinced by Trump’s reasons for the firing, about his relationship to the president and his view of the president’s prerogatives in this situation, about how he characterizes the overall situation he finds himself in, about the actions he is or isn’t willing to associate himself with, and about what his sense of integrity demands. At least two factors lead me to think Rosenstein will resign: (1) He has already seen his reputation soiled and his judgment questioned by the manner in which the President used his memorandum as a pretext for firing Comey; and (2) He appointed Mueller to great bipartisan acclaim, and he presumably did due diligence and convinced himself that Mueller was fit to serve. Unless Trump comes up with a clinching reason for firing Mueller that is now hard to fathom, it is hard to see how Rosenstein carries out the the order. He will resign.

Second, what happens as Trump moves down the line of succession? Newly confirmed Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand would be next, and then (I think) would come acting AAG for the National Security Division Dana Boente, who is not confirmed for that job but who has been Senate-confirmed as a U.S. Attorney. What a spot these two would be in! Would they carry out the President’s order, or resign? It might seem obvious that they would resign because they would not want to carry out or associate themselves with what Rosenstein would have thought, by hypothesis, was a bad faith or at least unacceptable order by the President. I think this is what would happen. But at some point down the chain of command a countervailing principle, call it the Bork principle, arises: stability in the Justice Department and in law enforcement more generally.

The decision by Brand or Boente to execute the President’s order or resign would be complicated by at least two unusual factors: (1) Unlike in Watergate, Attorney General Sessions remains in place above them, and could ensure, outside the Russia investigation from which he is recused, that the Department continued to function (assuming Sessions himself does not resign); (2) Amazingly, DOJ has no other Senate-confirmed officials, and there are complex questions about the line of succession after Brand and Boente for non-confirmed DOJ officials, and about the operation of the new Trump EO, and whether there is discretion on this matter and who can exercise it.

It is easy to imagine Brand resigning and perhaps Boente after her. It is also easy to imagine that one or the other carries out the President’s order on the Bork principle but at the same time announces that she or he plans very quickly to appoint a new Special Counsel of undoubted integrity to continue Mueller’s investigation. (I will ignore for now—these hypotheticals are getting depressing and complicated—what happens if Trump fires Brand or Boente for appointing a new Special Counsel.)

Third, what does Congress do? That is obviously the really important question. There is no doubt that firing Mueller would cause a backlash in Congress. The question is how much of one, and specifically, would it be enough to cause Republican leadership to intervene strongly with the President, and ultimately with impeachment? The answer depends on the reasons Trump gives for firing Mueller, the manner in which he does it, the precise reaction in DOJ, and what the nation’s reaction is. If Congress does not check the President, that leaves only the midterm or presidential elections, or possibly a 25th Amendment solution, as ways to stand up to the President. That may seem a depressing conclusion. But I predict it would not come to that. If the crazy scenario that got me to this point in the hypothetical decision chain materializes, Congress would rise up quickly to stop the President, and the pressure on the cabinet would be enormous as well. If I am naive in thinking this, then we are indeed in trouble.   
From a raw political standpoint, there's nothing at this juncture that makes me think the Trump Cult will do anything but cheer Mueller's firing.  Trump obviously thinks he can get away with it and win, and frankly why wouldn't he?  Which GOP members of Congress would stand up to Trump and demand his resignation or threaten impeachment?  McCain? Ryan? Rubio? McConnell?  The string of Republicans who have at every juncture so far shown nothing but abject cowardice?

Do you think Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan will appoint a special prosecutor?  Do you think Trump voters will care?

Goldstein does.

I do not.


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